Save the reporter time. News media have cut their staffs dramatically, and reporters are stretched so thin you can see through them. Give the reporter what he or she needs, the first time.
Don’t start conversations you’re not willing to finish. If you send a press release that leaves out essential facts (especially who, what, when, where and how), your release will probably go straight into the trash. If your story is so thin that it’ll fall apart if the reporter asks a question or two, you don’t need to be pitching it anyway. Even worse, you’ll get written off as a squirrel.
Think about whether you’ve ever read a news story like the one you’re pitching in that publication. If they haven’t written stories like yours before, they probably won’t start now.
Respect their policies and decisions. Many media have policies for what they will cover. Often, they won’t cover a certain type of story because it’s too common or because they’ve been burned. It doesn’t matter whether a rule is fair or not. The only correct response to a policy is, “I understand. Thanks for your time.”
Never argue. Dale Carnegie said “you can’t win an argument,” and that’s especially true when dealing with media. They own the press or the airwaves. They set the rules. By arguing, all you’ll do is create an enemy and close off future opportunities.
Be friendly but not familiar. The reporter’s not your buddy and doesn’t want to be. He just wants an easy story. Give it to him or leave him alone.
Things that will kill your story and make you unwelcome in the newsroom:
- Telling the reporter how much you’ve spent on advertising. Even if you get the story you’re hoping for this time, you’ll likely torpedo your future prospects. (Small weeklies are an exception, because in many cases the editor, ad salesman and reporter are all the same person. But on a daily, a business journal or a TV station, you’re just going to alienate the journalist.)
- Complaining about coverage. If you don’t like the headline, the placement, the tone or anything else, just keep your mouth shut. It’s OK to point out if something objective is incorrect, and that’ll usually result in a correction. Otherwise, just deal with it.
- Playing one news outlet against another. Every time you tell one reporter that his competitor is planning to run the story on a certain day, you can count on it blowing up in your face.